The Best Privet for Hedges

For most people, privet has a bad reputation. This is certainly understandable. Like with any shrub, some varieties are better suited to our gardens than others. In the case of privet, the bad varieties give the whole species a bad reputation. It is therefore important to learn which variety of privet is best suited to your garden before planting any.

What Is a Privet?

A privet is a type of flowering shrubbery that falls in the olive category. Its flowers are small and white with a heavy scent, and the shrubs also produce poisonous black berries. Overall, there are around 50 different species of privet that are either evergreen, deciduous, or erect. Depending on the species and growing environment, these shrubs may also grow into small trees. These shrubs are primarily found in Europe, North Africa, and Asia.

Unfortunately, almost the entirety of the privet family has gotten a very bad reputation due to the poor performances of some species. Privets don’t deserve to be shunned because of some species, however, as they typically are great garden features when cared for properly and carefully. Overall, they produce beautiful, white flowers with vivid, green leaves and can make very pretty plants to line the background of any yard or garden.

privet for hedges

Privets You Shouldn’t Plant

Before you can look at privets you should plant, you should first be able to recognize those you should probably stay away from as well. While determining bad privets will mostly depend on your location, there are two species of privet that could be left out of any garden, no matter where you live. Native to Europe and China respectively, these species have given the whole of the privet family a bad reputation all on their own.

The European privet, also known as Ligustrum vulgare or the common privet, is probably the one that has given privets a bad reputation the most. When gardeners picture large, ugly, obtrusive shrubs that quickly take over the garden with their dull flowers, it’s because of the European privet. The Chinese privet, also known as Ligustrum sinense, is similar to the European privet in that it seeds quickly and takes over gardens and forests, even when it’s unwanted.

The Best Privets to Plant

On the other hand, there are also very beautiful and kind species of privets that deserve much more positive attention than they may currently receive. For example, the Japanese privet, called the Ligustrum japonicum, is the best choice for any garden. They are traditionally small trees, but could be maintained and grown in other, smaller forms called the Texanum and Recurvifolium.

The Texanum, or Waxleaf Privet, originated in Texas, but is now grown primarily in California. It reaches to about six or eight feet tall and sprouts large groups of bright, white flowers in the spring season. These plants are able to be grown in big pots or boxes and are great for patios or terraces. The Recurvifolium variety is a curved-leaf privet with beautiful, twisted leaves. This species is very elegant and can be grown in many forms, even a hedge if maintained properly.

rounded privet hedge in front of church
By Stephen Craven – Creative Commons


Caring for Privets

If you trim and care for a privet properly, it won’t get out of control like its poor reputation predicts. If you trim the hedges or trees right after they have flowered, you can keep them from seeding and spreading throughout your yard or garden. You should also try to make sure that a privet has enough room to grow into its full potential, even if being trimmed into a hedge. The mature privet is the most beautiful, so allowing it to reach that stage will only help it find a beautiful home in your garden. Make sure your hedge trimmer blades are razor sharp for the best result.

Privets actually do not require much maintenance and can be planted with any soil or fertilizer. In fact, they typically don’t even require fertilizer unless you notice that they have started to grow slower or that their leaves have turned paler. When planting privets, add aged compost to the soil instead of fertilizer, as this will help the plants thrive.

In early spring or fall, you can add a 15-5-10 fertilizer to help the shrub absorb nutrients that will help it grow healthier. It is important to remember, however, that privets do not need fertilizer to grow; you should only fertilize them if you are unhappy with their growth or if their leaves have started to turn pale. Otherwise, unnecessary fertilization could cause nitrogen to leak into the groundwater and any nearby water sources. To be safe, you should really only add fertilizer if the leaves start to pale.